Bio David Owen
David is a member of the Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir. He also plays the piano badly and supports the charity ‘Hearing Dogs’ as a volunteer, looking after assistance dogs when they are puppies and prior to their advanced training when they will eventually provide companionship and assistance for profoundly deaf people.
David has been writing poems and crime stories for many years mainly for self-enjoyment. He is a member of the Denmead Writers’ Group under the wizardry command of Carol Westron who seems to be able to inspire the whole group to excel themselves in their writing.
When David is not singing, bashing the ivories of walking dogs, he can be found at his holiday home in France in the Dordogne.
What follows is a short story which is a mixture science fiction and ghost fantasy called ‘Written Dimensions.'
‘It wasn’t here yesterday’ Tracy remarked as they both ambled along the High Street.
Mark wasn’t able to say whether that was true or not, as he did not have Tracy’s preoccupation with the written word. Not words that is to say, found on tablets or smart phones, or even in glossy magazines. What Mark was thinking of was Tracy’s obsession with books. Books of all sorts, thick and thin, classic or popular fiction, travel anthologies or historical novels, autobiographies, Booker prize tomes and paperback crime procedurals. All of them somehow she found time to peruse. At least that’s what he imagined she did. She couldn’t possibly engage properly with the theme of every volume she came across. There simply weren’t enough hours in the day.
‘Ooh, I must go in Mark, come on! We’ve got an hour before the play starts, let’s just see what’s on the shelves.’
The wizened old man sitting on a stool by the door of the bookshop called ‘Reading in Wide Spaces’, looked up from underneath his soft, battered trilby as they entered.
‘Ah! Yes upstairs is better.’ he said, moving the muffler away from his mouth as he scratched his side whiskers. .
Perplexed by the abruptness of this remark, both Mark and Tracy were lost for a reply and simply followed the man’s pointed finger to the staircase.
‘Gosh it’s cold up here. And I have not seen anyone else in here. Have you’ Tracy said having arrived on the first floor.
Mark did not reply. Tracy turned to where he had been standing at the top of the stairs, but he wasn’t there anymore. He had disappeared in an instant. It didn’t seem possible that he could have gone off so quickly.
She retraced her steps, which meant going down the stairs. She started to descend only to discover that the staircase was shorter than she thought, and then she discovered that it did not go all the way down to the ground floor, but stopped abruptly at a landing leading off to a corridor. This seemed absolutely crazy to Tracy, as it now appeared that another floor had opened up between the ground floor and the first floor. She went back up to the top of the stairs again and found that the broad open room which seemed to be bursting with books and book cases, where she had arrived just a few moments before, was now yet another corridor, this time going in diametrically the opposite direction to the one she had just noticed somewhere beneath her on the next floor down.
She felt sick. Not a normal sick feeling, more like a mal de mer. How could this be? The length of this corridor was such that it must end somewhere over the shop front which meant that it would stick out as a buttress over the road. But she knew that was not true. She had been up and down that road many times and there simply wasn’t any building that remotely resembled such a structure.
She was now very frightened. Where was Mark? How could she have lost her bearings in just an instant? What was this place? She felt she had no option but to follow the corridor that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere in front of her. Half way along, she came to a left hand turning at the end of which was a window allowing light into an area that seemed to open up once more into another room with many shelves with books on them. And there was Mark! She ran to him and grabbed his arm.
‘Darling’ he said in a quite disarming way, as he pointed at the large casement window in front of him, ‘Look!’
‘Mark’ she replied breathlessly, ‘where have you been? This place it’s so odd. I mean…’
‘Where have I been? Why nowhere. I’ve just been standing here with you.’
She looked around her. There were the stairs they had come up when they first entered the bookshop. It was clearly longer than the one she had descended just a few minutes ago and there was no sign of a corridor running of a separate landing just below her. She was in the area they had entered when they had arrived on the upper floor. And now she recognised the books and remembered how cold she felt. She did not know where to begin to explain the disorientation she had just experienced, so feeling confused and somewhat overwhelmed she just said,
‘What is you want me to look at?’
‘The garden at the back of the building. It seems to go on for ever but isn’t there another road at the back of these buildings and more shops on the other side? It doesn’t seem real.’
Looking out of the window, she could immediately see what he meant and feeling encouraged by Mark’s bewilderment, she told him of her experience, starting from the moment they had stepped onto the first floor of the building.
He looked disbelievingly at her and said: ‘But I’ve been looking out of this window from the moment I got up here, which was less than a minute ago. What you describe couldn’t possibly have happened in that time, and as far as I am concerned, you’ve been with me all the time since we entered the shop.’
‘Oh Mark, you sound as if you either don’t believe me, or you think I’ve just screwed up.’
Mark was silent. He looked at Tracy with puzzlement written all over his face. Before either of them could say anything the old man they had met at the entrance to the shop appeared in the garden below them. He had emerged from behind a big oak tree and was now making his way back into the building. He disappeared out of their view and the next moment a door opened at the other end of the large room they were both standing in and the old man entered and walked towards them. He smiled and doffed his cap and then strolled out of their vision as he moved behind another cabinet to their right. They called out and followed after him, but he had disappeared.
‘Where could he have gone?’ said Mark, ‘there’s no exit around here and we would have seen him if he had retraced his steps. He couldn’t possibly have just vanished into thin air.’
‘Looking for me?’ said a voice from behind them making them both jump. It was the strange little old man.
‘Hello’ said Mark, ‘we saw you just a second ago and wondered where you’d got to.’
‘Are you enjoying it?’
‘Well everything is very unusual’ said Mark
‘Must go’ said the man as he ran down the stairs next to them.
Tracy, now feeling very apprehensive said, ‘Oh Mark, please let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.’
‘I agree.’ Mark replied, ‘Let’s go.’
They started to descend the staircase, only to find it was longer than when they had first used it, and now seemed to go on below the level of the ground floor which it did not give access to. There was no sign of the little man who had descended just an instant before them.
At the bottom, they found themselves in a darkened tunnel which seemed to go on forever. Either side, there were book cases filled with books. By now, they both realised that going back did not necessarily mean retracing your path to where you were before. The wooden floor echoed to their footsteps as they walked along the tunnel, and suddenly Tracy screamed. The little man was in front walking quickly away from them. Mark called to him but this just seemed to make him move more quickly. He was now walking at a fast pace, but the distance between them was increasing even though both Tracy and Mark were now running. It was difficult to keep sight of him in the dim light, until eventually he disappeared into the shadows.
Tracy screamed again. She turned to Mark.
‘Can’t you hear it?’ she said.
And then, in the surrounding silence Mark did hear the faintest sound.
It was a soporific whisper, made more sinister by the echoing provided by the acoustics of the long narrow tunnel.
They moved closer together, each finding reassurance in each other’s presence.
They moved on further down the tunnel, with its barely glowing lights failing to completely pierce the gloom. The strange, disembodied voice faded as they progressed. In spite of the dread that now engulfed them, neither could fail to notice the books. Books that reached up either side of the tunnel walls, to a point where if they had risen any higher they would have toppled over. They did not stop to read anything. Silently, they went forward with a settled intent to escape from this terrifying maze. Yet neither could fail to notice that the tunnel was warm and dry, which seemed unusual given the sense they both had of being deep underground and now feeling like sewer rats. It meant that the books, all of which seemed to be ancient hard backs, were in remarkably good condition.
Mark gripped Tracy’s arm.
‘It seems to be getting brighter ahead’ he said. ‘Yes it definitely is. Come on Trace, at least it gets us out of this morbid environment’.
The small glow ahead of them grew bigger as they moved towards it. Yet their progress seemed to be agonisingly slow as the light in front of them danced and flickered, creating weird, haunting shapes in the shadows. It started to get cold again and Tracy shivered as she clung to Mark’s arm.
At last the light filled the whole tunnel. It was now so intense that it was difficult to see shapes clearly.
‘Look, there’s a door – I think’ said Mark.
It was wooden and panelled with a round handle in the middle of it. Mark tried to twist the handle but it wouldn’t move. After several attempts, he pulled, and the door swung open. And behind it…
A black hole. As the door opened the light went out.
‘Mark! Mark! Where are you!’ Tracy screamed.
She felt his hand on her shoulder as he managed to find her.
‘OK Tracy, I’m here.’ he said.
They moved slowly forward, unsure of what was now around them. How much further forward could they go? It did not take long before they found out.
They were falling. The ground seemed to have suddenly opened up beneath their feet and it seemed as if their descent would last forever. Then it was over. They had landed but not with the usual tumble or jarring forces running up through their legs. It was as if nothing had happened. They were just standing behind the wooden door again, back to where they were just a moment ago, the blackness having given way once more to a bright light. Mark couldn’t help but notice that the door was now closed again.
Mark didn’t hesitate. He pulled the same handle not stopping to contemplate whether they would both now undergo the same experience of darkness and falling. But this time they exited into broad daylight.
They were outside of the shop. The door they had used to exit from the tunnel, now looked from the outside as if it gave access to a side entrance – which it now probably did. But the front of the premises had changed. Tracy felt giddy and was starting to be overcome with the same sick feeling she had experienced before. She took deep breaths as she leant on Mark’s arm. Then she followed Mark’s gaze to the name above the bookshop. ‘Albert Blazer’s Book Emporium’, it stated in clear black paint surmounted on a green background.
‘Mark, the name of the shop…’
‘Yes I know it’s different…’
‘It’s not just that Mark…’
‘Tracy!’ said a voice from within the shop.
A broad shouldered somewhat unkempt dark haired man of about forty emerged, with his arms outstretched. He was dressed in green cords, a blue shirt and a red sweater, and on his feet he wore loafers.
Mark groaned, this was the last person he wanted to meet after what they had both been through – Tracy’s cousin Jonah. He was an eternal bore, full of his own importance and involved to the point of tedium in family ancestry.
Tracy and Jonah embraced.
‘Recognise the name old girl?’ said Jonah whilst running one of his hands through his thick, curly uncombed hair and pointing to the shop’s title with the other. ‘Yes it really is!’ he said, misinterpreting Tracy’s startled expression.
‘They’ve moved from about three streets back.’ he said pointing to a small alley situated between two shops on the other side of the road. ‘You probably wouldn’t have come across them before. They’ve always been into old books and first editions but they’ve changed their name. The name of the shop was ‘Blundings’, but it was started by Albert Blazer a hundred years ago and the new name celebrates the hundred year anniversary as well as starting afresh in a new location. The present owner is Eunice Crandyke and I’ve known her for years. She’s another cousin y’see,’ Jonah volunteered unnecessarily, as he knew that Tracy was acquainted with her other relation. ‘Well, she’s been quietly running the show most of her life. Inherited it from someone in the family. I forget who now. I’m helping her move in…’
‘Yes, I know about Eunice and I know about her bookshop but I didn’t know about the Albert Blazer connection.’ said Tracy cutting Jonah short.
At that moment Eunice emerged from the shop. Casually dressed in black slacks and a grey halter top, she also embraced Tracy and kissed Mark.
‘Is this just a coincidence that you two happen to be here on the first day I’ve opened…or what?’ Eunice exclaimed.
Fearing the reaction if either she or Mark started to talk about what had just happened to them, Tracy replied: ‘I’m not sure. But anyway, I’m intrigued by the name, did Albert Blazer really start the original bookshop?’
‘Yes he really did’ said Eunice.
At this point Mark, who was growing increasingly puzzled, interjected: ‘Who is Albert Blazer?’
‘He is our great, great grandfather. He was a writer who had quite a lot of success with his books, but never made it to the big time.’ Tracy replied.
‘What sort of books did he write?’ retorted Mark.
‘Fantasy, children’s books and science fiction. Oh and he was into writing philosophical works as well. He was an amateur astronomer and was very much into the big questions, like how big is the universe etc. He was very keen on Newton and all that business about understanding the physical laws that govern everything.’
‘Come into the shop…’ said Eunice, ‘I’ve got something to show you.’ she turned to Jonah and said, ‘Could you be a dear and go and get some of those other boxes from the old shop whilst I show Mark and Tracy around?’
‘Oh, yes OK’ said Jonah, clearly put out by this suggestion.
Following Eunice’s invitation, they followed her back into the premises, which both Mark and Tracy noticed, did not look at all like the shop they had entered less than fifteen minutes beforehand. Gone was the central staircase, instead there was a corridor leading off from the ground floor area which had a sign next to it carrying the motif: ‘More titles on first floor – this way.’
Eunice led Tracy to a desk which she said contained her most interesting books, together with her best sellers. She picked up a large volume which was hard covered and starting to come apart at the spine.
Tracy read the title and noted the author’s name: ‘Travelling In Five Dimensions. A philosophical discourse by Arthur Blazer.’
‘One of a number of books which you might call metaphysical rather than either fiction or non-fictional.’ Eunice said. ‘I need to do some work on this one, but please have a look at it Tracy. You will find it interesting.’ she said.
‘Tell me Eunice,’ said Mark ‘the bookshop that Mr Blazer owned all those years ago, was it always where you’ve just moved from?’
‘Yes that’s right.’
‘And am I right in thinking that the area around it was not so built up originally as it is now?’
‘Yes. Many of the buildings either side did not exist then.’
‘So, would it have had a big garden?’
‘You’re quite right Mark, I’m not quite sure how you knew about the garden, but in any case, the land was sold off years ago – before the Second World War I think – to create the houses and streets that are there now.’
Tracy knew exactly what Mark was referring to and was getting that nauseous feeling again.
‘One more point, was ‘Blundings’ the original name of the shop?’
‘No’ replied Eunice, ‘Albert originally named it ‘Reading In Wide Spaces’, which sort of tuned in with his philosophical interests, but after his wife died, he changed it to ‘Blundings’ in her honour. It was her unmarried name you see.’
Eunice turned to Tracy as she held out the book to her. ‘Please open the envelope. It’s most intriguing. It has got your name on it, but of course it must refer to another Tracy as Albert died before you were born.’
Inside the cover of the book was an old envelope, water stained and grubby with the name ‘Tracy’ faintly written in Gothic script on the outside
She took out the note that was folded up inside it and read it aloud. ‘The two dimensional man is as lost in a three dimensional world as the traveller from three dimensions moving in five. Do not be frightened, for everything is an illusion.’ It was signed and dated: Albert Blazer 1938.
On the fly leaf of the book was a photograph. It was an old black and white print of the little wizened old man Tracy and Mark had seen when they first entered the shop.
She pointed to the photograph and said to Eunice, ‘Is this…’
‘Yes’ said Eunice ‘that’s Albert Blazer. Your great, great grandfather who died in nineteen seventy. I never met him, but by all accounts he loved books and had a lively sense of humour. I think you might have had something in common. Pity it was never possible for you to meet. The book gives you a sense of his presence however.’
‘Yes’ said Tracy, ‘somehow I seemed to have sensed his presence already.’